Turtles

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite?

Owning a red eared slider turtle can be very rewarding. They are an amazing reptile to incorporate into a semi-aquatic environment, but may need more care and looking after than you expect. On average red eared slider turtles can live anywhere between 50 to 70 years. Thats right, 50 to 70 years, so owning and caring or a turtle in no short term commitment. It’s not far from a humans lifespan. Being one of the most popular turtles to own as a pet, you may be wondering, do red eared sliders bite?

Through this article we will answer all the questions you need answering relative to the question “Do red eared sliders bite?”. We’ll cover subjects such as why they may bite, all the way through the spectrum to ways in which you can stop them biting.

So let’s begin.

Red Eared Slider Temperaments

Red eared slider turtles are semi aquatic. This means they spend their time split between dry land water. They’re notorious for basking, and spend more of their time in the sun when they get the opportunity. In the wild this is usually on the river banks, or logs and drift wood.

Pet red eared sliders are no different and they will ask a lot of the time too. They are commonly described as having a fair mild temperament, but some individuals may grow to become aggressive, specially if there are a larger number housed together. Aggressiveness is usually down to two factors. Number one being over food, and number two, feeling threatened.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Humans?

Naturally red eared slider turtles won’t usually get aggressive towards humans, and they certainly won’t get aggressive towards them over food. Red eared sliders are commonly quite wary of humans as being a threat due to our size in comparison to their small frames. 

When a turtle feels threatened it will either do one of two things. It will either defend itself, which may involve biting and nipping, or it will simply hide away inside its shell where it is usually very safe from possible predatory threats.

If you encounter your red eared slider turtle becoming aggressive it’s best to leave them alone for a while to relax. This is most commonly seem when bringing them back home for the first time. The whole ordeal of relocating a turtle is a very stressful time for them, so it’s no wonder they might become aggressive towards you. After a while, once they have settled in, they will naturally begin to accept you without being threatened. 

We’ll cover other possible reasons why they might be turning aggressive a little further on in the article. For now all you need to know is that usually a healthy red eared slider turtle won’t be aggressive towards humans and therefore won’t usually bite unless feeling threatened.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite One Another?

Okay, so this is where the food part comes into the equation. Like most wild animals, they become more aggressive over food, specially if it’s usually hard to come by. In the wild red eared slider turtles will naturally create a hierarchy between their group and the biggest will usually always eat first if there’s not much food to go round. In the wild this is usually avoided as they inhabit a location which is usually high in food sources. 

However this may become a problem for domestic pet slider turtles who aren’t being fed correctly. If your turtles are being underfed then they may become aggressive to one another over food. It’s very common that you will hear some hissing and witness some biting or nipping. If this is the case then for the time being I would suggest to try and feed them separately for a period of time, so they’ll all eating a healthy amount and not being bullied off by any of the bigger turtles.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Other Animals?

Yes, red eared sliders will commonly bite other animals which they may see as prey. The most common for this is obviously other tank or pond mates. Fish are part of a slider turtles diet, and will eat smaller fish if they can catch them. It’s common for slider to nip at the fins of fish unlit they become unable to evade being captured.

If you have other pets such as cats or dogs, they may be seen as threats from for your turtle. If they get too close and your turtle can’t find anywhere safe to hide, then it may bite or nip at them as a form of defence. In this situation however, they are only biting due to feeling threatened by your other pets.

Other reason why red eared slider turtles may bite humans?

There are a number of reasons why your red eared slider turtle may bite and we’ll cover these points in this section. The reasons will differ from biting humans to each other, so we’ll go into a bit more detail for each of these. All you have to do is understand that your turtle isn’t usually very aggressive, so it has to be something that you are doing to make it bite. 

This includes;

  • Putting your fingers close to its mouth 
  • Being stressed
  • Feeling threatened
  • Not being fed properly
  • Protecting eggs
Putting your fingers close to its mouth 

This is usually the most common reason for a slider turtle to bite you. Unknowingly waving your fingers in front of your turtles face is pretty much asking for it. Sometimes turtles do make mistakes, and this is no acceptation for food. Sometimes they will mistake your finger for food, specially if your hand is in the water.

If your turtle is housed outside in a pond, then biting can even happen when you’re doing some routine gardening maintenance. Being unaware of the location of your turtle may lead you to unknowingly put your fingers right in its biting range, so it’s best to know where your turtles are before you start. 

Being Stressed

Some times your slider turtle may just be having a bad day. It happens from time to time in every specie on the planet, so becoming stressed is just another reason why your turtle may bite you. When your turtle is stressed it will like to be alone, therefore you should monitor its change in characteristic to determine stress levels. 

If your turtle seems to be hiding away more often, then it’s usually a good indicator they have become stressed. It’s now up to you to determine why your turtle has become stressed and correct it. Stress can lead to lack of appetite and some illnesses that may need veterinarian advise and antibiotics.

Feeling Threatened 

Another obvious reason for your slider turtle to bite you is when it’s feeling threatened. This is most likely to be the case when you bring them home for the first time. They will need time to adapt to their new home and will naturally be on high alert. The relocation of a slider turtle is a very stressful act, so it’s best to leave them for a couple of weeks to settle into their new environment. 

Not being fed properly 

Turtles will sometimes bite when they are hungry, so this may be a sign that your turtles aren’t being fed enough. You create a varied food plan for your slider turtle so you can monitor exactly what foods they are being fed. This also help to see what foods they like in comparison to others. It may be that your turtle isn’t eating certain foods you are offering them, but you haven’t realised and they’re going hungry.

A staple, healthy diet can solve this problem, which you can create form our Red Eared Slider Food List.

Protecting Eggs 

Unlike sea turtles, the red eared slider turtle will protect its eggs, specially pet sliders. Slider turtles will commonly either create a nest to lay their eggs, or use one of their housing boxes which should be provided for them. 

A mother red eared slider will protect her eggs from any predatory threat. They will become unnaturally aggressive when protecting their young, which will be unmistakable with hissing and biting.

Other reasons why red eared sliders may bite each other?

Red eared slider turtles do sometimes become aggressive towards each other and bullying may start from the biggest turtle in the group. You should monitor your turtles to check for any signs of aggression, which can include, cuts, bruises and abrasions, as well as scratch or bite marks on their shells. These are the most common signs of aggression between two or more pet turtles. 

Some other reasons include;

  • Living space is too small
  • Not enough basking spots
  • Could be mating
  • Establishing dominance 
Living space is too small 

Before purchasing a red eared slider turtle you should already know what size aquarium or pond they would need. Unfortunately some reptile owners go against what is recommended as subsequently pay the price.

When a turtles living space is too small, this will cause aggression towards one another. Everyone needs their own space and enough space to not feel on top of each other. A turtle needs a huge amount of space and water for it to be an acceptable standard. For every inch of a turtles shell they should have a minimum of 10 gallons of water space. 

(This is free space, so with no other fish or turtles. If you had other turtles or fish in the aquarium it would be 10 gallons extra per inch of fish too).

On average red eared slider turtles grow between 10 – 12 inches. So for a singular turtle, with no other fish or turtles in the aquarium, you would need a tank or pond size of 100-120 gallons. For two turtles it would be double this amount.

Not enough basking spots 

It’s not just the size of the tank or pond which can cause aggression. Red eared sliders will also become aggressive towards one another over the best basking spot. If you don’t have enough room for multiple basking spots then your turtles may begin to fight.

For the bets possible outcome in prevention of attacks, you should try to provide more than one basking spot each. If you have two turtles then you should allow double the amount of possible basking locations. This way there will always be another basking spot so both turtles can bask in peace.

They could be mating 

Male turtles will seeming become aggressive towards the female turtle when trying to make. However what can be seen as aggression is actually part of their mating process. Males will bully the female into mating with them and may become aggressive if she trying to deny him the opportunity. With that said, the biting and aggression towards the female is never intended to be injure or hurt them, its mostly playful.

Unless you are becoming a licensed breeder, it is best to house only the same gender of slider turtles together. Females will commonly get along with one another better than the males, however once a hierarchy has formed between the males they can usually live in harmony with each other.

Establishing dominance 

If you are housing more than one turtle in the same aquarium, then a hierarchy will have to be formed. Establishing dominance between the biggest turtles will become aggressive until one of them come out as the top turtle.

If you buy the turtles from the same group and they are of similar size, then this can be avoided. Specially if you have a big enough space to house them, and you keep their diets healthy and constant. Keeping their environment clean and their diets healthy will keep your turtles happy. If they are happy, then they have no reason to fight.

How do you stop red eared sliders from being aggressive?

There are a couple of  factors which you have the control over to help prevent your red eared slider turtle from biting and being aggressive. Unfortunately, turtles aren’t like dogs who can be taught and trained to stop biting from a young age. What you can do though, is provide for their needs. What I mean by this is to provide the best possible environment for them to enjoy and feel comfortable in.

Appropriate Spacing

Giving your turtles the best amount of space possible in its environment will keep them happy. The more space they have, the less they are likely to become aggressive towards each other. A minimum of 10 gallons of water per inch of your turtle should be provided, however there is no limit to how much it should be. Other reptiles such as lizards need appropriate sized enclosures. Not only do they need a minimum size, they also have a maximum size. Too big and it will cause a lot of unwanted stress. Luckily for turtles, they don’t have a maximum size.

A turtle will take anywhere between 5 to 8 years to grow fully, so if you start with a smaller tank when they are juveniles, you will have to prepare for purchasing a bigger tank once they are fully grown. 

For outside ponds I would recommend only buying a suitable amount of turtles to accommodate the size of your pond. It’s much harder, and much more expensive to increase the size of a pond, so you don’t want to over populate it with turtles. 

Female Heavy Habitat

As a simple rule of thumb, the more females you have, the less likely they will be to become aggressive. Females won’t usually fight unless living conditions aren’t correct. Males however will fight to become the dominant turtle as well as fight over the females. If you house two females together, they should be fine. Equally if you have a male turtle, you should house them with a couple of females if possible.

And if you have the space to house multiple turtles, then you can house a couple of males together as long as there are more females in the same environment. This means that aggressiveness will be minimised as there are enough females too mate with peacefully.

Refrain from adding other turtles

Adding other species of turtles, or younger turtles of the same species to a pond or aquarium will likely lead to aggressive behaviour. To start off with the older and bigger turtles will most likely bully the younger ones, and will almost definitely bully a turtle of a different species.

Not only that, but when/if the smaller turtle grows big enough to defend itself then there could be a fight for dominance, specially with male reed eared slider turtles. It really is best to not do this at all and safe yourself the hassle of possible upsets.

Feed them in different areas 

As we’ve said before, the most common time for aggressive behaviour is when feeding. Red eared sliders will most commonly fight over food than any other reason. If you notice this then it’s best to feed them separately. 

Depending if you have the space you can feed them in separate parts of their aquarium. If not then you can try to feed them at separate times. You can do this if you notice that one of your turtles is swimming, then you can feed the other whilst it’s preoccupied, then feed the other once the first has finished.

Ultimately this will will take a lot of time, and will be very hard to do. There’s no guarantee that they will separate for long enough either. Soon enough they will acknowledge you as a means of food, so when you’re in close proximity of the aquarium, they will think that’s being fed.

Add a divider into the feeding area 

You can try to add a divider into the feeding area of their environment to try and keep them apart, this will only work with your supervision though, and if they eat straight away. Sometimes they won’t take the food straight away, which means you have to leave it for them and they’ll eat it at a later date. Unfortunately adding a divider won’t work if they don’t eat straight away.  

Conclusion 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on “Do red eared sliders bite”. To recap, red eared sliders are a semi-aggressive specie of turtles and will occasionally bite. They will bite at humans if they feel threatened or mistake your fingers for food. Other than that they’re usually very tame towards humans.

They will bite each other when fighting for dominance, feeding, basking and over females. Aggressive behaviour isn’t constant hover the after effects can be lasting. Commonly once a turtle become the most dominant, they will stay aggressive towards the others. 

Remember this can be avoided with the correct environmental conditions which includes, suitable size of aquarium and living space, healthy and staple diet, there are more females housed than males, and finally they’re all a similar size. Stick to these factors and you should be fine. If you see any signs of injuries, please seek advise from a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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